Steve Ulrich Marietta’s Own Escape Room Host

Steve Ulrich is fortunate to have not just one, but five jobs that many would consider to be “dream careers”.  His businesses include two video-related companies: My Digital Conversion and Wilkum Studios, an escape room: First National Escape, a co working space: First National Coworking, and an outdoor ice cream café: Mulberry Thrill. He manages these companies with the assistance of his wife Abby out of an 1875 Victorian Bank in Marietta. If this isn’t enough, he enjoys serving as an adjunct professor of Video Production at Lebanon Valley College!

With a degree in Film Studies & English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and a second degree in Business Administration from Albright College in Reading, PA, Steve is able to combine his passion for film and business.  His resume includes 13 years of freelance post-production with shows airing on PBS, Discovery Channel, TLC, NBC, and National Geographic, and 10 years of independent production through his company Wilkum Studios, providing all of your video production needs locally, including videography, 360 videography, motion graphics, voice-over, color correction, encoding for web or mobile, and custom music.  

At My Digital Conversion, Steve and his employees can transfer your film, audio, photos, and videos to digital CD, DVD, thumb drive, hard drive, or the web.  They can create custom slideshows and videos where you play the part of the “director.” Reminder: Christmas is right around the corner and custom DVDs and videos make a great Christmas gift!  

First National Coworking is one of the more unique co working spaces in the country, if not the world. A variety of eclectic, historical, and functional spaces serve the business needs of individuals and groups such as: small business owners who do not (yet) have their own private space, those traveling for business, teams who require conference space outside of their normal offices, students and writers.

First National Escape is an exciting variation on your typical escape room.  Located in an authentic 1875 Victorian Bank, the object is to break into the vault and collect as much money as possible in an hour before getting caught.  The artifacts found in the vault are antiques that span the age of the original bank from 1875 to 2000. The escape room provides more than your typical venue of this type.  If you are looking for a day with friends or family or to build up your corporate team, First National Escape offers common areas to relax and drink a cup of coffee, or conference areas that can comfortably fit up to 30 people.  From there, you can explore the rest of historic Marietta including the newly completed Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. This 14-mile long mostly flat paved trail is very popular for bikers and hikers and offers beautiful views of the Susquehanna River, White Cliffs, and bald eagle nests.

And if you happen to be on the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail, take a break and enjoy some ice cream or iced coffee at Mulberry Thrill, served out of the former Drive-Thru Teller Window located at the rear of the bank at 100 West Market Street in Marietta. All ice cream sandwiches are homemade, and they also offer classic novelties that you would find in an ice cream truck in the 1970s, along with some modern gluten-free and dairy-free items.

Whether you are in charge of planning your next company team building experience, producing a video, or in need of assistance converting those old delicate family memories into something digital, contact Steve to find out how he can help!  He is available by email at  stephenulrich@wilkumstudios.com

 

 


“ITP, LLC is supporting local small business owners through this post.  The experiences described are personal to particular users, and may not necessarily be representative of all users of the products and/or services.  We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all users will have the same experiences. Your individual results may vary. We are not affiliated with the organization referenced and are not paid or compensated for this publication.”

 


Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

In August I was fortunate to present to a group of business professionals the exciting topic of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  This act brought about several changes and I spoke about the larger implications to taxpayers and businesses.

One of the changes with the TCJA were the taxable income brackets, which are now broader.  Meanwhile, most tax percentages decreased. The net result meant a lower tax percentage for most taxpayers and paying less tax overall.  The following chart shows the difference between tax years for those filing married jointly.

 

2017 Taxable Income 2018 Taxable Income
10% $0 – $18,650 10% $0 – $19,050
15% $18,651 – $75,900 12% $19,051 – $77,400
25% $75,901 – $153,100 22% $77,401 – $165,000
28% $153,101 – $233,350 24% $165,001 – $315,000
33% $233,351 – $416,700 32% $315,001 – $400,000
35% $416,701 – $470,700 35% $400,001 – $600,000
39.6% $470,701 or more 37% $600,001 or more

 

In addition to the percentage and income bracket changes, there were several other impacts to come from this act.

Individual:

  • On the positive side, the standard deduction almost doubled from $12,700 to $24,000.  This change means fewer people will be taking itemized deductions at tax time as we have discussed in early entries.
  • The Child Tax Credit doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 and the phased out for the credit has been raised to $400,000.
  • 529 Education Plans now encompasses elementary and secondary public or private schools.  
  • Personal exemptions have been eliminated
  • Alimony is no longer allowed as a deduction by the payer, nor as income for the receiver effective on divorces beginning after 12/31/18.

 

Business:

  • C Corporations now pay a flat 21% of their taxable income which is a change from a varied rate before.  The rate before ranged from 15 to 35% depending upon taxable income.
  • Depreciation has seen some big changes as well.  The Section 179 expense allowed was $500,000 and that has been raised to $1,000,000.  The Phase-out threshold for depreciation has increased by the same amount to $2,500,000.  
  • The new 20 percent QBI deduction, is a powerful tool that will reduce the taxes associated with income from many pass-through businesses. This may encourage pass-through businesses to stay in their current form, rather than converting to a C Corporation.

At the end of my presentation, I provided 4 real life client examples comparing their tax situation in 2017 against how it will look with the new changes.  If you are interested in learning more about how the TCJA will impact you, my door is open!


Bennett Mayer Tour Driver for Adventure!

Regardless of the season, Warm Wind Tours wants you to “come play with us”.  This locally owned and operated touring company offers luxury packages to exciting destinations at affordable prices.  Just take a look at their current listings and you can find four seasons worth of adventure! There is not much that is prettier than New York Wine Country in the fall.  Looking to visit New York City during the Christmas season? Or are you already planning ahead for next summer? If so Warm Wind has got you covered with southern beach and sailing trips.

Warm Wind Tours got its name from creator and owner Bennett Mayer who has been driving bus groups for many years.  Bennett began sailing with a friend 30 years ago in a Hobie 16 named “Chinook”. He learned that Chinook was an Indian word for warm wind.  Because of the happiness and fond memories Bennett has of those sailing years, Warm Wind Tours got its name when the venture began In February 2018.  He uses the “come play with us” slogan because that’s how he wants his customers to feel. Playing carefree and having fun! Bennett enjoys working with people and his satisfaction comes from seeing and helping people smile and have a good time.

Warm Wind Tours has a beautiful and very user friendly website for booking tours and learning more about the company.  Bennett is also available by email at bennett@warmwindtours.com or phone at 717-629-4242 to help you plan your getaway!

 

 


“ITP, LLC is supporting local small business owners through this post.  The experiences described are personal to particular users, and may not necessarily be representative of all users of the the products and/or services.  We do not claim, and you should not assume, that all users will have the same experiences. Your individual results may vary. We are not affiliated with the organization referenced and are not paid or compensated for this publication.”

 

 


2018 Standard Tax Deductions for Individuals

The 2018 tax law changes introduced a much larger standard tax deduction than ever before.  At $12,000 for single taxpayers and $24,000 for married filers, this standard deduction may slowly do away with itemized deductions.  When filing, you may claim the largest deduction.  Either the standard deduction available to you based on your filing status or the sum of your itemized deductions.  The standard deduction involves less work as it alleviates the burden of accounting for and reporting all of the individual items. But for some, itemized deductions may still yield the greatest return.  

In March we discussed Workplace Tax Deductions that are available, depending on your career.  Volunteering can also create some opportunities for itemized deductions as we explored in June.  Additionally we’ve shared tax breaks that are available to students in 2018.  Here we look at some additional personal tax deductions to consider if you are planning to itemize deductions.

Financial expenses accrued throughout the year are often viable as deductions, so save your receipts for financial services.  Examples include the cost of preparing your income taxes. This includes tax software and filing fees or preparation fees if you see a professional.  Additionally, money spent for financial planning, can be claimed as well. By preparing for your financial future through financial planning services or creating a living will, you can also enjoy the benefits of financial returns in the present when deducting these expenses.  

Pumps and aids for nursing moms are just some of the reimbursable medical expenses that can be realized, depending on your medical needs throughout the year.  In order to claim medical expenses as an itemized deduction, they most total more than 7.5% of your AGI (adjusted gross income). This amount increases to 10% in 2019 and will mean only those with high medical expenditures will be able to realize these deductions.

Finally, if you are paying mortgage interest on a loan secured by your residence, whether it be a first or second home, this is acceptable as an itemized deduction.  You cannot claim payments on the principal nor can you claim if you have not been making payments.

For a  full list of available deductions with explanations, the IRS website is a great place to check out:  https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions-for-individuals.  Remember to save receipts and paperwork throughout the year to make deducting easier at tax time!

Did you know that your vacation may be tax deductible as well?  We will explore this in greater detail in the next installment.


Jason Mundok Certified FileMaker Developer

Jason Mundok has been planning, designing, developing and deploying custom business applications for his clients since 2000. He is a certified FileMaker developer with extensive experience helping clients from a wide variety of industries design solutions, streamline business processes, and increase productivity.  New to FileMaker? FileMaker is a custom database platform for Mac, Windows, iPad, and iPhone. FileMaker has been a valuable information management tool across business, government, and educational industries for more than 30 years.

If you are looking for help developing a custom business solution for your organization, Jason is your guy.  He believes that creating and nurturing strong client relationships is the foundation for a successful project. For Jason, this begins with open and honest communication to create a collaborative environment.  In order to facilitate this communication, he utilizes a framework which includes the following components:

  • Feature Planning – collaboratively create a list of what you would like to do with the system or what you will expect the system to do automatically
  • Release Planning – define the project timeline and establish all project logistics such as meeting schedules, communication channels, and expectations
  • Development Cycles – plan, create, test, and review a subset of features and provide budget and status updates every two weeks
  • Beta Testing – move the system into your environment for authentic user testing
  • Deployment – convert your data and roll the system into production

Combining this framework and the FileMaker database platform, Jason has successfully completed numerous projects over the past 18 years.  His projects have ranged from small business solutions on up to creative applications for billion dollar corporations.

In addition to Jason’s work experience, he has had numerous opportunities to write and speak about developing custom business applications and managing development projects.  Jason has presented around the United States and has written for several publications. These opportunities include publication in FileMaker Advisor Magazine, speaking engagements at national FileMaker Developer Conferences, and seminar presentations in New York City and Philadelphia.  

To find out more about how Jason can help your business create solutions, streamline processes, and create solutions he can be reached via email at jason@jasonmundok.com or phone at 717-606-2992.


Starting Over: Budgeting for Success

Our first two topics in the starting over series explored growing trends in changing careers and divorce, especially as they occur later in life.  As part of both trends we discussed budgeting as a key component to success.  In March, we explored budgeting ideas in Your Family Budget.  In this final installment of the starting over series, we will go a little more in depth on the topic of budgeting.

Whenever possible, prepare for big upcoming changes such as career switches or divorce, by saving six months to 1 year of living expenses.  Even when you don’t have an impending change on the horizon, it is important to maintain a 6-12 month safety net for the unexpected and unplanned.  Prepare for the worst and you will be able to breathe easier throughout the process.

The first step towards saving 6-12 months of expenditures is to know what this dollar amount is.  This requires creating an honest budget to determine what 6-12 months of living expenses equal for you.  With a budget, not only will you have a guide for savings, you will also have a clear picture of how much you need to earn going forward.  This is particularly helpful in the event of a new career or separation with different household income.

When starting a budget, you don’t have to recreate the wheel.  There are budget calculators and budget formulas already in place, tried, tested, and proven successful.  Several of these budget calculators are shared in “Your Family Budget”.

One of the most popular budgeting formulas was created by Elizabeth Warren and it is known as the “50/30/20 Budgeting Rule”.  As with any formula, your first step is to itemize your monthly expenditures, being sure to list and include everything. Next list your monthly income.  Using Warren’s formula, you will then want to breakdown your income payments with 50% going towards needs, 30% towards wants, and 20% into savings OR paying off debt.  

A need is defined as something you need to live such as housing, groceries, electric, or water.  Minimum monthly payments toward debt are also considered needs. While a 30% allocation going towards wants may seem to be a lot, wants include things you might not consider to be in this category.  For example, many consider their monthly phone plan to be a need, but it really constitutes an extra – along with going out to eat, and cable or Netflix subscriptions.  Before making a purchase, stop and think.  Is this something I need or is this something I want?  Splurging on wants every now and again is fine, but establish some boundaries.  For example, agree that you will take care of a want once a month and determine a dollar amount to spend ahead of time when you’re creating your budget.  

It’s also important to sit down with your budget regularly to make sure you are still on track and to verify that the budget created still works as time changes.  A good time to review your budget is when you are paying monthly bills or when you receive your paycheck. A budget, once created, is a working plan that can have the flexibility to change as needed and should be an active part of your financial routine.  Don’t create it and forget about it!

 

 

 

 


Starting Over: Divorce

Divorce rates have been on the decline in recent years, and several factors are contributing.  Fewer couples are choosing marriage to begin with – opting instead to stay single and co-habitat.  This is especially true in lower income categories. However, one age group that does find divorce rates growing are those over 50.  Similar to career change – more people over 50 are getting divorced than in previous years and this change carries some big costs.

To begin with, there is the price of divorce itself.  This includes everything from litigation fees, to charges for document copies, and attorney bills.   Attorney fees are usually the highest price tag item. With lawyer fees averaging $250 per hour, if you can agree on property distribution and child custody details without a lawyer, saving yourself this cost will be huge!  If you think you can come to an agreement out of court and save yourself the money, check out Divorcenet and their guide to DIY divorces for tips.

Be prepared ahead of time and costs will be more manageable.  To start, make a list of your assets and liabilities before going to a lawyer.  Both categories will need to be divided. Now is the time to open individual banking accounts and start to close off joint accounts.  Make sure that you change names as appropriate on all titles, deeds, and accounts. Monitor your credit report throughout this time as well.  Because debt is split, your spouse may end up paying for debt that still has links to your name on it.

Next, there is the cost of starting over to consider.  Be sure to consider the price of having 2 of everything.  Two residences, two sets of bills, not to mention savings accounts split in two, and two sets of insurance policies (health & home/auto). Filing income taxes separately will also result in much different returns going forward.  You will need to consider if you will be paying or receiving child support or alimony money. Alimony is taxable and must be reported while child support does not.

On the bright side:  many people find that the emotional freedom is worth the financial costs.  Create a new budget for yourself….look at where you can cut costs and increase savings.  You won’t be able to spend like you could with two incomes and one home, so you will need to list priorities in order.  Experts recommend meeting with a financial consultant to help organize and make sure you considered everything.


Robert Diggs

In 2014, the PCLA (Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts) was formed.  Currently consisting of eleven Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges, PCLA has an incredible mission and vision.  The consortium works to share knowledge and cost efficiencies with its members to help improve the quality of their programming to students and other institutional stakeholders.  PCLA strives to create more opportunities and better access and includes Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Haverford, Juniata, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, Swarthmore, Ursinus, and Washington & Jefferson Colleges.

Robert Diggs has been a vital part of PCLA for almost 3 and a half years, currently employed as the Implementation Manager. 

 Through his role, Diggs is responsible for all aspects of the consortium’s work including event management, internal sub-grant stewardship, and maintaining the PCLA’s social media/website presence. Working for a membership organization, Diggs believes his top priority is to be responsive to the pressures that his member institutions face.  As a result, he strives to deliver the programming needed, or provide the support necessary, to enable the solutions that best address the needs of the consortium membership. This response can vary from organizing a collaborative conference call for sharing of best practices, to the organization of a workshop where experts can help institutional professionals work through the issue at hand. Diggs’s job is to help identify the right solution and implement it.

Diggs’s favorite part of his roles as Implementation Manager is serving as a generalist.  As a generalist he is able to help the institutions collaborate when and where it makes strategic and financial sense. He has been exposed to myriad areas of running a small liberal arts college, and eleven different examples of how to educate a mind…professional experience he would not have gained by working at just one institution, or a single nonprofit.  This experience has been rewarding and beneficial!

Diggs earned a BA from Franklin & Marshall College, where he majored in the Government Department, and is currently pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).  Diggs has worn many hats throughout his professional life, leading to a unique perspective of liberal arts institutions and how best to serve them. Beyond higher education, Diggs has worked in the Fortune 500 world for a subsidiary of eBay, and in education access for the New York City based program Prep for Prep, of which he is an alum.

Diggs is always open to connecting with people. A part-time member of  The Candy Factory, you can find him there on most Tuesdays and Fridays, or feel free to email him at rdiggs@fandm.edu for additional information or questions!

 


Starting Over: An Introduction

Starting over can come in many forms.  For some, beginning fresh with a whole new career path later in life can mean exciting but daunting challenges.  How do you secure the right training for your new field? Does the resume that you created in 2000 still hold up in today’s business world?  For other people, starting over may be initiated by a divorce, a new home in a new neighborhood, bankruptcy or foreclosure. How do you navigate when you find yourself in unfamiliar waters without a map?

One current trend is the growing rate of divorce among those over the age of 50.  Rates of divorce for couples over 50 have actually doubled over the past ten years.  Another rising trend shows that more people are making big career changes later in life as opposed to be being stuck on a job path that they don’t enjoy.  CNBC has explored this topic in their article “Career Change is the New Normal of Working”.  Their first tip is to enlist help as you begin negotiating career change – don’t attempt it alone!

Our next several blog posts are going to focus on the increasing trend of “starting over” that many of us find ourselves embracing, for better or worse.  Each entry will cover a topic, including:

  1. Job training, search, and resume building
  2. Creating a budget when you need to start over financially
  3. Rebuilding after divorce

If there are additional areas that you would like more information about, please just leave a comment!  These topics are all unique to the individuals involved, but there is certainly some common ground we all share and can explore.


Sobeida Rosa

 

The Candy Factory is an amazing asset to Lancaster business people looking to co-work. This co-working facility offers office space to entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as conference rooms and event space rentals to the public. The Candy Factory is a great alternative to working at a cafe or working from home. Anyone that works out of the space is exposed to an amazing community of local professionals.

One of the local professionals helping to make the Candy Factory amazing is Sobeida Rosa.  Sobeida is the Community Facilitator for the Candy Factory. As a part of her role, she writes blogs on members and plans the monthly events that make working at the Candy Factory so much fun. Sobeida also does administrative work  in addition to giving tours to potential members, and helping to greet members and guests at the front desk.

Sobeida is a Lancaster native who was introduced to the Candy Factory through Advantage Lancaster, a local mentorship program that aims to expose inner-city youth to a variety of experiences and opportunities. Sobeida has been involved in the program since 2011, first as a student and then as a paid intern. In the summer of 2017 Advantage Lancaster had connected with Anne Kirby, the founder of the Candy Factory, and created an internship opportunity that allowed Sobeida to work part time. Now, Sobeida is working as the Community Facilitator.

As a resident of Lancaster City, Sobeida attended McCaskey High School. Throughout her time there she was enrolled in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. She was involved with the Vidette (school newspaper), National Honors Society and Student Senate among other things. In her final year of high school she was a dual enrollment student enrolled in the Lancaster Campus of the Harrisburg Area Community College and McCaskey. She graduated in 2016 with Honors with a class of 688 students.

Through her work at the Candy Factory, Sobeida shares that she has gotten to view Lancaster through a new light. This is due in part to meeting so many different people and discovering various business professionals. “It’s been a wonderful experience!”  As an aspiring journalist, Sobeida has been exposed to the multiple uses for her journalistic skills through coworking at the Candy Factory.

Sobeida is currently enrolled in Ithaca College where she is a dual-major in Journalism and Spanish. She hopes to use her knowledge of the Spanish language to write articles on issues within the Latinx community in both Spanish and English. Sobeida has had works published in Motivos Magazine, a bilingual magazine based in Philadelphia. As well as several self published pieces on her blog which she started in the summer of 2014 as a creative outlet for herself and the things that interest her.  

To find out more about Sobeida visit her website.

For anyone interested in the Candy Factory, check out their website and fill out their contact form for more information!